Physical Therapist: Career Summary, Occupational Outlook and Education Requirements
Are you interested in becoming a healthcare professional? Would you like to help people improve their physical function and quality of life? A career as a physical therapist will allow you to do these things. Learn more about this career and its requirements here. Schools offering Physical Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Can I Expect From a Career as a Physical Therapist?
If you become a physical therapist, you will work with people who have health problems, such as arthritis, stroke, cerebral palsy and injuries, which could impair their physical functioning. You will develop customized treatment plans to help increase range of motion, reduce pain and prevent disabilities in your patients. Treatments may include therapeutic exercise, massage, electrotherapy or the use of special equipment. You will keep records of your patients' progress, set goals and adjust treatment plans as necessary. You may coordinate your treatment plan with other healthcare professionals who treat your patients, such as physicians, nurses, social workers and dentists.
Will Job Prospects Be Favorable?
Between 2008 and 2018, employment of physical therapists was projected to increase by 30%, which is much faster than average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The trend points to an increase in people with physical disabilities resulting from an aging population and technologies that allow trauma victims and babies with birth defects to live longer lives. The demand for physical therapists is also expected to increase in schools due to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The best job prospects were expected to be seen in rural areas and in settings where the elderly are often treated, such as nursing homes and orthopedic offices.
What Education Will I Need to Complete?
To become a physical therapist, you need to earn either a master's or doctoral degree in physical therapy. You can expect a master's degree program to last 2-2.5 years, and a doctoral degree program to last about three years. To gain admission to one of these programs, you should earn a bachelor's degree and complete some science courses, which may include anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physics, statistics and psychology. You may also be required to gain some physical therapy experience.
Once enrolled in a graduate degree program, you take courses in pathology, pharmacology, radiology and neuroscience. You also learn clinical skills, such as performing physical examinations, making diagnoses, implementing interventions, assessing outcomes and managing a practice. Your clinical work may take place in acute care, outpatient or inpatient settings.
To practice physical therapy, you'll need a license. Licensure requirements vary by state, but may include graduating from an accredited program, passing state jurisprudence exams and passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Continuing education is required by many states to maintain licensure.
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